Celebrating company culture through art and handcraft

One of the first things I talked about with Eric Dodds1 (I’ve mentioned him before2) when I started my new position at The Iron Yard3 was making sure that there was a balance of work and experimentation. One of the goals of my job is to bring more design thinking into the day-to-day and integrate it into the culture at the school.

To start moving down this path, we came up with this idea to print posters.

I was inspired by the folks over at Facebook believe it or not, and their Analog Lab Research Laboratory 4. They describe themselves as “a creative space for design and art-making” and exist solely to hand print cool art pieces that are shared with internal staff. Ideally, their goal is that the pieces “will influence culture and challenge thought”. My thought? This is fantastic. I want to take it a step further.

Concert posters are cool. They’re similar to t-shirts in the fact that they can act as this unifying thread between a community of like minded people. Social signals that act as a banner representing who you are and what you believe – without you having to physically stand on a soapbox proclaiming as such. If they look nice, they may even be framed and hung on the wall. We decided that creating some posters would be a great way to unify what is becoming a large and greatly distributed company. We now have 14 going on 15 campuses all across the United States and it is becoming harder and harder to keep our heads together. Eric has done a great job at putting our values as a company into writing. And we’ve also put a lot of work into figuring out what our company looks and sounds like as a brand. But that is a very externally focused pursuit. I would print the posters myself5 in limited editions. They would be solely for the staff – to go on the walls of each campus – or wherever the employees want to put them. Limited in number, available to only a handful of people. It’s a small gesture but I believe it’s the start of something genuine.

All photos in this post are taken by Zach Suggs. He's awesome.

All photos in this post are taken by Zach Suggs. He’s a Greenville, SC based photographer and he’s awesome.

This poster is an homage to two of the partners at the Iron Yard. First, to Eric, who started quoting Buzz Light year early on and now it has manifested itself into The Iron Yard lore. The Speed Racer helmet is an ode to Mason Stewart. He wore it around for a bit during the first week I was on the job6 and it’s kind of a staple around here now. Pairing these two things together made sense to me. Even though from the outside it may make people scratch their heads, I thought it was an appropriate subject of a first print to send to all of the campuses.

I work with some incredible people and am part of a team that is growing very quickly. Having a sense of humor is never bad, and remembering your roots is important. If something as simple as a screen printed poster can brighten one employee’s day when they receive it in the mail, I think this project will be a success. If anything, it will keep some of the original thinking that has gone into the company in tact and forever emblazoned in ink on paper.

  1. Eric Dodds is a partner and CMO of The Iron Yard. ericdodds.com 
  2. My first post 
  3. The Iron Yard is determined to train the best software teams in the world. theironyard.com 
  4. Wired article about Facebook’s Analog Research Lab 
  5. The Printshop is a local printer’s workshop in town where members can use the facilities to make art. 
  6. Mason wearing the helmet.